The coins will enter into circulation next year as part of the American Women Quarters Program

By Jen Juneau
May 10, 2021 10:57 AM
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Maya Angelou and Sally Ride
Maya Angelou (L); Dr. Sally Ride
| Credit: Ken Charnock/Getty; NASA/Interim Archives/Getty

The U.S. Mint is honoring 20 trailblazing women on a new series of quarters, starting with Maya Angelou and Dr. Sally Ride.

The poet and the NASA astronaut will be the first two women featured on the back of the coins, which are debuting in January and will continue in circulation through 2025 as part of the American Women Quarters Program.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said in a statement that "for too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country's history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color."

She added that Angelou and Ride "paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy."

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Sally Ride Quarter
Dr. Sally Ride quarter
| Credit: United States Mint
Maya Angelou Quarter
Maya Angelou quarter
| Credit: United States Mint

The U.S. Mint announced Ride and Angelou as the first honorees in April, saying the coins' heads "will continue to feature a likeness of George Washington designed in a manner to distinguish it from the current image."

The group also encouraged those wishing to nominate women to be featured on the quarters to do so via a web portal form set up by the National Women's History Museum.

Tam O'Shaughnessy, Ride's life partner and co-founder of Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego, previously said in an April statement that Ride, the first American woman in space, who died in 2012 at age 61, "would be so moved by this great honor."

"It's especially fitting that it comes during the 20th-anniversary celebration for Sally Ride Science," O'Shaughnessy added. "This tribute reflects Sally's legacy not only as a trailblazing astronaut but also as a champion of diversity and inclusion in STEM fields."

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Angelou, who died at the age of 86 in 2014, gained acclaim for her first book, her 1970 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

"Maya is one of those totally steadfast people with a spine made of iron," writer Jessica Mitford, Angelou's longtime friend, previously PEOPLE. "She's a force of nature with so many talents in every direction that the combination comes like an earthquake."

Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who introduced congressional legislation to create the American Women Quarters Program, previously wrote in a February USA Today opinion piece that "as female U.S. senators, our story would not have been possible without these women who came before us."

"We look forward to being reminded of their legacies every time we see their faces on a new quarter," they added.